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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Reaching for the stars pays off

STARRY-EYED: Kanyisa Mtshela is excited to start the new phase of his engineering work. STARRY-EYED: Kanyisa Mtshela is excited to start the new phase of his engineering work.
Kanyisa Mtshemla originally toyed with studying sound engineering, but decided to make the trek to Cape Town because he thought the student life infrastructure would be better here than in Joburg.
This meant switching to his other choice of electrical engineering, but this turned out a fortuitous decision because he found his home.
 
 The 31-year-old now graduates his Masters in Electrical Engineering this week, but he is just as excited about having worked on ZACube-2, the second nanosatellite developed by F’Sati at CPUT, which launches into outer space in the middle of the year.
 
His Masters research was in the nanosatellite constellation configuration, investigating which was the design best suited to optimise revisit time (satellite revisit time is the time elapsed between observations of the same point on earth by a satellite and ZACube-2 will be tracking ship movement along the South African coastline).
 
He got to work on the software of the “image payload” (the camera).
 
Mtshemla started working in Mossel Bay in 2014 after he graduated with his BTech in electrical engineering and registered for his Masters, travelled back and forth on the weekends. That didn’t work so well and he didn’t bother registering in 2015, but once his work contract ended he decided to head back to CPUT.
 
“There’s a lot to consider when doing your Masters and it helped that there were people here I could ask for help,” he said.
 
He inadvertently spent a good part of 2016 falling asleep in the laboratory at night because he was working on the Engineers in Training programme for hands-on training during the day and his Masters research in the evening. 
 
“The challenge was to do the task for the lab and in the evening work on the thesis,” he remembers.
 
Mtshemla is very proud that his parents will be making the trip up from Queenstown to watch him graduate. Not only does he get to show off the campus he has lived on for the past few years, but graduating justifies the decision to study for his Masters even when he knew they felt strongly that he should be working.
 
“If I had quit the masters studies when I had defied them that would have been bad. They supported me even when I did the opposite of what they suggested,” he explained.
 
While Mtshela will finally have to move off campus and find his own living space, he will still be on campus every day because he joins the Mission Engineers team, working on the next set of nanosatellites.
 
He thinks he might even consider working on a PhD, just as long as there is no more falling asleep in the labs.
Written by Theresa Smith

Email: smitht@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.